By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
NEW ORLEANS (LBM) – During the 2023 Louisiana Baptist Pastor’s Conference, Nov. 13, hosted by the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, speakers offered words of encouragement and conviction to pastors.
SERVE WITH JOY
Leroy Fountain, a Louisiana Baptist church health strategist, spoke during the opening session from Acts 20:16-24 to urge the crowd to endure with joy.
Fountain said as Christ followers strive to finish their races, they must remember there is a prize for those who compete, they must prepare for the spiritual battle and they must persevere.
He encouraged pastors not to focus on the size or location of their church, but rather to work hard for Christ and the Kingdom.
“God has placed you there and you should be faithful there,” he said. “If you really want to finish your race with joy, you must keep your eyes on the prize.”
He challenged the pastors not to give up as they run the race and to remember what waits for them at the finish line.
“The payoff of the race of faith is Heaven, it’s everlasting life and it’s everlasting joy,” he said. “But in order to get that everlasting joy, we must endure the challenges and the difficulties. We must do as Paul talked about he was doing “with many tears and with trials.”
TEACH WITH JOY
David Allen, distinguished professor of preaching and Dean of the Adrian Rogers Center for Preaching at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Cordova, Tennessee, reminded pastors of the joy of teaching.
Preaching from 1 Timothy 3:4, 2 Timothy 2:2 and Colossians 1:28-29, Allen reminded pastors to live a life of Christ-like character as they strive to teach the Word.
“Character and teaching go together,” said Allen, also founder and editor-in-chief of the new podcast and website, Preaching Coach (preachingcoach.com). “Pay attention to your life. Be sure your ambition and ability does not carry you beyond where your character can sustain you.”
Allen noted that an ideal pastor and teacher is a man who will have spiritual depth, doctrinal integrity, personal excellence in the discipline of preaching and teaching and a faithful and practical life.
“You cannot know God by the academic process alone,” he said. “There is the spiritual aspect of it all.”
Additionally, he encouraged pastors to fear God and do what He says. When the day of accountability comes, there won’t be any no shows, he said. “So, you better get it right now.”
EVANGELIZE WITH JOY
Ryan Rice, pastor of Connect Church, Algiers, used Luke 12:35-40 to challenge pastors to engage their community.
Rice said that Christ followers are Kingdom servants who serve with joy, knowing that one day Jesus will return. Therefore, Rice said Kingdom disciples stay ready, are faithful, desire His will be done and have a joyful responsibility.
Rice cautioned churches not to be discouraged if they do not see initial fruit from evangelistic efforts. Rather, he said they should remain faithful.
“God blesses a church that lives with open hands and is willing to reach their community with the Good News of Christ,” he said. “The servant of God has rewards to look forward to. We are called to remove this fear and go forward in reaching our community with the Good News of Christ.”
He said God has called churches to glorify Him in the Kingdom work to which they are called.
“Our reason for doing ministry is not so we can have the bigger, best and better,” he said. “Our reason for doing ministry is that we serve out of the overflow of our love for Jesus and engage people with the Gospel so that His Kingdom may be advanced even if our church never grows.”
ENDURE WITH JOY
Dean Inserra, pastor of City Church, Tallahassee, Florida, cited 2 Peter 3:14-18 to exhort pastors to have joy in standing firm against the cultural tides coming against the church.
Inserra emphasized there is no joy in false teaching, but there is stability in orthodoxy, adding that stability stands in grace and truth. He also offered that joy in standing firm is not found when it is “a sport,” but rather when it is an act of devotion and an act of worship.
He said everyone has been shown grace and hence Christ followers should share the Good News with others.
“The doctrine hasn’t changed,” Inserra said. “We just need a grace awakening in our circles. And what if it started here in Louisiana.”
LEAD WITH JOY
Clay Smith, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Georgia, cited Philippians 1 and Hebrews 13:17 as a reminder for pastors to find joy in leading.
Smith told pastors they have a joy in Jesus that is greater than the hardship of ministry and when they have a joy from Jesus it overflows into a love for other people.
“Your ministry is not a source of joy, but Jesus is,” he said. “And if you have Jesus, you can have the joy that you need from ministry.”
PASTOR WITH JOY
Chip Luter, senior associate pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, encouraged pastors to embrace the joy of pastoring.
Basing his message on Philippians 1:1-11, Luter said pastors can experience appreciation, alliance, assurance, affection and ambition as they pastor.
He shared that many churches have members who have a sincere devotion to their pastors which makes pastoring the church joyful.
“The people we lead have our backs,” he said. “It’s joyful to know that the people we shepherd lavish us with their prayers, encouragement and support.”
Luter encouraged pastors this is God’s work, and He will see it to completion.
“If we believe the resurrection really happened, then we can have the confidence that the work of the ministry will be complete,” he said. “But, yet, if we depend on our own selves and not place it all at the feet of Jesus, we will lose the confidence of what Christ can really do in our churches.”
PREACH WITH JOY
Clint Pressley, senior pastor, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina, closed the Pastors Conference by reminding pastors of the joy of preaching.
Pressley, preaching from 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, said a pastor’s message is driven by hope, founded on grace, is a clear one and is for the glory of the Gospel.
He noted that through Christ His followers have security, acceptance and assurance and can rejoice.
“We live in a culture of death and Jesus gives us the words of life,” he said. “What a great joy to know that you are in Christ.”
Pastors were treated to two panels:
— New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary professors spoke on the important role pastors play (Nate Jernigan, assistant professor of music and worship, Leavell College; Matt James, vice president for enrollment and assistant professor of historical theology; Greg Wilton, dean of Leavell College; and Blake Newsom, associate professor of expository preaching and Caskey Center director).
— Waylon Bailey, pastor, First Baptist Church, Covington, Carl Gulde, director of missions, LaSalle Baptist Association, and Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, shared about what the key lessons they learned while serving as pastor.
Finally, officers were elected to lead the 2024 Pastors Conference: Heath Peloquin, pastor, Summer Grove Baptist Church, Shreveport, president; and Tommy Kiker, pastor, East Leesville Baptist Church, vice president.